Farmers market gets brief mention at Bloomington 2021 budget hearings, still “elephant in room”

Last Wednesday was the Bloomington city council’s third night in a series of four hearings on the proposed 2021 budget.

Appearing on Wednesday’s agenda was the 2021 budget for the parks and recreation department, which again includes the city’s community farmers market. The origin story for the market dates back to 1975.

The market has been the subject of controversy since early in last year’s season, when a vendor with ties to white supremacist groups was identified by local activists. A lawsuit filed by the vendor and a counterclaim by the city is pending in federal court, with a trial date set for over a year from now.

Based on the opposing views of long-time councilmembers Isabel Piedmont-Smith and Dave Rollo, it would likely take a hard political fight to remove the farmers market from the city’s currently proposed 2021 budget.

A fight over the farmers market could take place behind closed doors—between councilmembers and the mayor—before Sept. 30, when the administration’s final version of budget is presented to the council. A vote to adopt the budget is scheduled for Oct. 14.

Or the debate could take place in public, if a councilmember proposes an amendment to the final 2021 budget that would defund the farmers market.

Also a possibility is that the farmers market remains, as councilmember Kate Rosenbarger put it on Wednesday, “the elephant in the room.”

The farmers market budget is in the ballpark of $150,000, or less than a tenth of one percent of the total city budget, if utilities and public transit are included. Continue reading “Farmers market gets brief mention at Bloomington 2021 budget hearings, still “elephant in room””

Bloomington budget hearings draw remarks on convention center expansion, farmers market, anti-racism training, policing

On Monday, details of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s 2021 proposed budget were released, putting some meat on the bones that were previewed to the media on Friday.

Hamilton delivered remarks to the city council on Monday night for the first night of a four-day series of departmental budget hearings, which wrap up on Thursday.

If the focus is narrowed just to the general fund, the picture looks the same as last year, with a couple of caveats.

Proposed for this year is $48.69 million which is a 4.1 percent increase, compared to last year’s $46.76 million. But adjusting for a $2 million package of “Recover Forward” initiatives and a decrease in property tax cap expenditures of $193,772, the proposed budget works out to a zero percent increase (out to two decimal places).

The mayor’s proposed budget draws on $3.3 million in reserves—$2 million from the rainy day fund and $1.3 in fund balances. By the end of 2022, Hamilton expects to have drawn down total reserves from four months’ worth of operating expenses to three months’ worth. Continue reading “Bloomington budget hearings draw remarks on convention center expansion, farmers market, anti-racism training, policing”

BLM Bloomington Facebook forum: Disarm IU police, sell the Bearcat, boycott city farmers market

Last Saturday, members of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) B-town Core Council held a live-streamed Facebook event, under the banner “Black Against the Wall.”

The Facebook forum came the day after an event that was not organized by BLM.

A few thousand people took part in a demonstration that started in Dunn Meadow on Indiana University’s campus and wound up on the courthouse lawn in downtown Bloomington.

BLM’s official statement about the two different events said: “There are many groups in Bloomington working for Black Liberation using a variety of tactics. …Black people are not a monolith, and our differences should be celebrated. We are one community with many different voices that all deserve respect.” Continue reading “BLM Bloomington Facebook forum: Disarm IU police, sell the Bearcat, boycott city farmers market”

Bloomington files answer to federal complaint by farmers market vendor, makes counter claim asking for judgment in city’s favor

In a filing made Monday with the federal district court, Bloomington has given its required paragraph-by-paragraph answer to a lawsuit filed against the city by Schooner Creek Farm (SCF), a vendor at the city’s farmers market last year.

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SCF was also approved by the city to be a vendor at the market this year. The city sent SCF a letter saying SCF was accepted as a vendor and admonishing SCF about some violations last year.

With its Monday filling, Bloomington has also made counterclaims, and is asking for a judgment in its favor, based on the farmers market contract that SCF signed for last year’s (2019) season.

The contract includes a clause that the city is analyzing as prohibiting SCF from filing a lawsuit in this circumstance. The clause says that vendors “will not institute any action or suit at law or in equity against the City or the City’s agents or employees as a result of operations under this Agreement.”

A different clause in the 2019 contract forms the basis for a second counterclaim by the city. The clause requires vendors to indemnify the city of Bloomington.

It was in 2019 when protestors showed up at the market on several Saturdays to call for a boycott of SCF, after local activists pointed to evidence that SCF owners espoused white-supremacist views.

SCF filed its complaint on Feb. 14, 2020. Continue reading “Bloomington files answer to federal complaint by farmers market vendor, makes counter claim asking for judgment in city’s favor”

Bloomington farmers market to use pre-order, drive-through pickup to start season due to COVID-19 protocols

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Bloomington farmers market ordering screen (Screen grab on April 2, 2020)

Bloomington’s farmers market will start off the year on a pre-order, drive-through-only basis, due to the required protocols of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Details of the drive-through-only approach were revealed in a press release issued late Wednesday this week. Orders for this coming Saturday, April 4, the scheduled opening day of the summer market, have to be placed by the end of the day on April 2.

Also in future weeks, the market will operate on a Thursday ordering deadline for Saturday pickups.

[Updated at 1:24 p.m. on April 2, 2020: Marcia Veldman, farmers market manager, told The Square Beacon that by early afternoon on Thursday, around 500 orders had been received.] Continue reading “Bloomington farmers market to use pre-order, drive-through pickup to start season due to COVID-19 protocols”

Bloomington park commissioners OK lower sales percentage as food and beverage artisan fee, but COVID-19 makes much of it moot

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Kathleen Mills, chair of the board of park commissioners, was the only person present at city hall for the March 24, 2020 meeting of the board. That’s possible under a governor’s order given last week. Based on a new order issued on March 23, no onsite anchor is necessary for a public meeting. The whole meeting can be conducted by videoconference or teleconference. This is a screen grab of the Facebook live stream the city used to supplement the usual CATS coverage.

In a 3–0 vote at their regular meeting on Tuesday, Bloomington park commissioners approved a reduction in the fee that food and artisan vendors are supposed to pay for their space at the Bloomington farmers market.

The new official fee for the 2020 market season will be 7.5 percent of gross sales, which is 2.5 points lower than the fee that was charged in previous years. It’s not as much of a reduction as the farmers market advisory council had recommended, which was 5 percent this year, with an eye towards converting it to a flat fee.

It’s not a fee that’s going to be charged, though, according to Becky Higgins, recreation services division director. The market won’t be able to operate as it usually does, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Higgins told park commissioners the city  won’t be charging its food and artisan vendors, or its farm vendors, any fees for the first couple of months of the market this season. Continue reading “Bloomington park commissioners OK lower sales percentage as food and beverage artisan fee, but COVID-19 makes much of it moot”

Protest at Bloomington park board meeting yields 2–1 vote on farmers market rules of behavior

Bloomington’s board of park commissioners voted 2–1 on Tuesday night to adopt new rules of behavior at the city’s farmers market. Dissenting was the newest board member, Israel Herrera.

The rules specify how and where protests are allowed at the farmers market.

Herrera told The Square Beacon after the meeting that his vote was based on the concerns that meeting protestors had conveyed—from the public podium and their seats in the audience—about the possibility of increased police violence in the coming season, due to the new rules. People who speak up should not be forced to shut up, he said.

The 2–1 tally was enough to pass the measure on the four-member board. One seat is currently vacant. The city’s corporation counsel, Philippa Guthrie, told The Square Beacon the board needs a majority of those present to approve a motion. Continue reading “Protest at Bloomington park board meeting yields 2–1 vote on farmers market rules of behavior”

Bloomington park commissioners say no to status quo on food and beverage vendor fees at farmers market, possible decrease coming

At its Tuesday meeting, a short-handed board of park commissioners decided on a split vote to reject the city staff’s proposed fee structure for food and beverage artisans in the coming season at Bloomington’s farmers market.

Bloomington parks and recreation staff will now work to come up with an alternate fee structure proposal for food and beverage artisans.

The alternate structure could include lower fees and will likely be considered at the board’s February or March meeting. The farmer stall fee structure was already approved by the board in early January. Continue reading “Bloomington park commissioners say no to status quo on food and beverage vendor fees at farmers market, possible decrease coming”

No charges for protestors at Bloomington farmers market, says Monroe County prosecutor

Five protesters who were arrested at Bloomington’s farmers market on Nov. 9 last year,  will not be prosecuted for their actions, according to a statement issued Wednesday morning by Monroe County’s prosecutor. They had been given summonses for criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.

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Flanked by two Bloomington police officers on Nov. 9, 2019, after his arrest at the farmers market for a protest against white supremacy, is Forrest Gilmore wearing a purple unicorn costume. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

The protest got national attention in part because of the inflatable purple unicorn costume worn by one of the protestors.

In the statement from the prosecutor’s office, Monroe County’s prosecutor, Erika Oliphant, is quoted saying, “My office has evaluated the specific facts and circumstances surrounding these citations, and we have decided that it is appropriate to decline prosecution in this instance.”

The specific facts of the situation included protest activity—holding signs and loud singing inside the market vendor area—directed at the Schooner Creek Farm stand. The owners of Schooner Creek were identified by local activists earlier in the year as having ties to a white supremacist group.

In late July last year, one protestor was arrested for similar activity—holding a sign near the Schooner Creek Farm stand. That protestor was also not prosecuted. Continue reading “No charges for protestors at Bloomington farmers market, says Monroe County prosecutor”

Park board decision to keep public control of Bloomington farmers market includes restrictions on speech

Continue reading “Park board decision to keep public control of Bloomington farmers market includes restrictions on speech”